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Friday 12th June At Shanklin one has to adopt the detestable custom of bathing in drawers. If ladies don't like to see men naked why don't they keep away from the sight? To-day I had a pair of drawers given me which I could not keep on.
The rough waves stripped them off and tore them round my ancles [ sic ]. While thus fettered I was seized and flung down by a heavy sea which retreating suddenly left me lying naked on the shingle from which I rose streaming with blood.
After this I took the wretched and dangerous rag off and of course there were some ladies looking on as I came up out of the water.
Robert Kilvert, the Rector of Langley Burrell. After studying at Oxford, Francis 'Frank' Kilvert became ordained as a clergyman. Kilvert served as a curate in rural parishes near the Welsh borders before becoming the Vicar of St Harmon in Radnorshire in Between and , Rev. Kilvert kept a series of diaries, in which he described his daily activities and recorded his observations on rural life. Kilvert was appointed Vicar of Bredwardine in Herefordshire in A few days after returning from his honeymoon, Frank Kilvert died of peritonitis at the age Although the novel was serialised in , the novel is set in Paris during the late s and the costumes illustrated in the book reflect this fact.
The pot-bellied gentleman is wearing what appears to be brief bathing-drawers made from stockinet. Away from the gaze of women, men preferred to wear as little as possible when swimming.
However, nude swimming was not as common as it once was in the earlier decades of the nineteenth century. This painting, which is signed and dated " F. Bazille, ", shows the type of short bathing drawers called "calecons" in France which were worn by male swimmers in Europe in the s. During the s, most professional photographers used albumenized paper for photographic printing. Albumenized paper employed albumen from egg whites to bind photographic chemicals to the printing paper.
Unfortunately, fresh egg whites contain glucose and the resulting "protein -sugar" reaction in the albumen causes the photographic print to turn yellow over time. Research has shown that albumen prints from the s and s show more yellowing than those printed later in the century. It is true that most of the Victorian images we have of male swimmers show them them wearing the "neck to knee" bathing costumes, the use of which were encouraged by local authorities who wished to uphold the idea of propriety and decency on public beaches.
However, there is plenty of evidence to show that men who took swimming seriously preferred to swim in the sea naked. During the s, because of the offence caused by the sight of naked male swimmers, local authorities introduced by-laws and regulations that insisted that men who wanted to swim from the main beach of the seaside resort during the hours between 8 o'clock in the morning and 9 o'clock in the evening had to wear a bathing costume which preserved public decency.
It is likely that members of The Brighton Swimming Club would have preferred to swim naked, but in the s rules were brought in to ensure that at public swimming competitions, male swimmers at least wore short bathing drawers called "calecons" in France. Because details of costume are key to establishing dates of old photographs, the style of top hat worn by these near naked figures is a particularly significant factor.
The straight-sided top hat worn by the young swimmer on the far left of the picture above is associated with the late s. Other top hats featured in the photograph date from the s. The distinctive swimwear - brief bathing drawers tied with a draw-string or ribbon - also provides a clue to the possible date of the photograph. Courtesy of the Brighton Swimming Club and the East Sussex Record Office] When dating old photographs from the Victorian or Edwardian period, a range of features have to be considered - a The Type of Photograph - the format, the photographic process used, technical aspects of the photograph etc.
There are other features to consider when dating a photograph e. An albumen print was the most common type of photograph produced in the s. These photographic prints were made on paper coated with egg-white, one of the purest forms of albumen. The white of an egg provided an excellent coating for photographic paper, giving a glossy, smooth surface, but unfortunately albumen prints tend to fade and turn yellowish as they age.
The naturally occurring glucose in egg-white reacts to the amino acids in the egg protein causing the highlights of the photographic image to turn yellow.
In the s and s, professional photographers took steps to reduce the yellowing effect of the "protein-sugar" reaction, by methods such as "gold-toning" and the use of "fermented" albumen.
The process of fermentation reduces the amount of glucose in the egg-white. Scientific investigations have shown that the yellowing of albumen prints dating from the s and early s was found to be more severe than those encountered in photographic prints produced in the s and s and one report concluded that "the additional yellowing is more than the extra age of the prints would allow for".
The yellowish appearance of the Brighton Swimming Group photograph suggests that the original photograph was taken during the s or the early s, when the benefits of fermented albumen had not been discovered and "gold-toning" was not widely used. Photographers who took group photographs from the s onward would have been using cameras equipped with the faster, photographic "dry plates" which could capture clear images within a fraction of a second, creating "instantaneous photographs".
With the introduction of technically advanced cameras with mechanical shutters and sensitive "dry plates", photographs of large groups became more common in the s. The picture quality of the group photograph of nineteen members of the Brighton Swimming Club indicates that the photographer was using an early camera with technical deficiencies. Only the front row of bathers are in focus. The limited depth of field and lack of sharpness suggests the photographer was using an early type of sliding-box camera, which required longer exposure times.
The photographer would have had to make do with a very shallow plane of focus and expose the "wet plate" by the crude method of uncapping the lens for a number of seconds. The "wet plate" photographic process required the photographer to coat the glass photographic plate evenly with the sticky collodion solution immediately before use and all the stages of the process - sensitizing, exposing and developing - had to be done while the plate was still wet.
In the collodion "wet plate" era of the s, the photographer of the Brighton Swimming Club group would have had to transport his equipment and apparatus from his studio in the centre of town, all the way down to the beach where the photograph was to be taken. For outdoor location work, a photographer would have to carry with him a large amount of heavy equipment, including glass plates, a tripod, bottles of chemicals and some sort of portable darkroom, as well as the bulky camera itself.
The group photograph of members of the Brighton Swimming Club presents a problem with dating on the basis of styles of costume and fashion details because all nineteen men are naked, apart from their skimpy bathing-drawers and the top hats that they wear on their heads. The men sport top hats in a variety of styles, but two or three are wearing the tall, straight-sided top hats, colloquially known as "stove pipes".
Stove-pipe top hats were common in the late s and early s, but were completely out of fashion by the mids, being replaced by the medium-high top hats with a curly brim. The brief bathing-drawers worn by members of the Brighton Swimming Club in this photograph had only been introduced as required swimming gear by clubs and local authorities during the early s.
Before , most men swam naked, but if swimmers were to take part in swimming competitions in front of the public, they were required to wear bathing-drawers to avoid "public indecency". An article entitled " Public Swimming at Brighton ", which appeared in " The Spectator " on 6th August , gave an account of the " Fifth Annual Swimming Matches of the Brighton Swimming Club ", which started from the Bathing Station , to the west of Brighton's famous Chain Pier , and which took place in front of thousands of spectators.
The reporter purchased for one penny a race card on which was printed " the few and simple rules, such as all competitors were to wear bathing drawers ". The short bathing-drawers , known as " calecons " in France, had been introduced from the continent, where mixed bathing was more accepted.
The brief bathing-drawers were held up by a tied cord or draw-string and in the sea had a tendency to loosen and fall down. During the s, a one-piece bathing costume was introduced to prevent embarrassing accidents and preserve the modesty of the swimmer. Because the swimmers are wearing short bathing drawers, not dissimilar to the brief bathing trunks worn in the 20th century, a number of the people who have seen the photograph have presumed that the photograph was taken many years after the foundation of the Brighton Swimming Club in , some suggesting a date of , which would have marked the 50th anniversary of the swimming club.
However, documentary and pictorial evidence indicates that it was customary in the s for male swimmers to wear short bathing drawers when swimming in public. According to the Minutes of the Brighton Swimming Club , dated 2nd June , Benjamin Botham was admitted to the swimming club " on condition of his taking a photographic sketch of the members of the Club ".
To read an account of Benjamin Botham's life and photographic career click on the link below: The swimmers wear top hats, but are dressed only in short bathing drawers. There are a few men in the assembled group who appear to be in their early forties, but over half of the swimmers depicted appear to be young men in their late teens or in their twenties. In , the year the swimming club was formed, there were a total of thirteen members.
By , the membership of the Brighton Swimming Club had risen to George Worsley c , a founder member of the Brighton Swimming Club , was about 25 years of age when the club held its inaugural meeting on 4th May Charles Hindley c , the Secretary to the Brighton Swimming Club was a 40 year old bookseller when he attended the swimming club's first meeting in May The well-known swimmer Frederick Cavill joined the Brighton Swimming Club in May , a couple of months before his 23rd birthday.
Leonard Reuben Styer , who was President of the Brighton Swimming Club from until arrived in Brighton during the s. If you continue to use our website, we will assume you are happy to receive cookies from us and our partners. My Account Back Account Details. Ladies Swimwear products. View all ladies clothing Find the perfect swimwear for any occasion within our massive range of ladies swimwear. You will find swimsuit, bikini, tankini , beachwear and much more from top brands including Slazenger and Ocean Pacific.
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